Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Resurrection Sunday, Birthday and Baptism

This picture was taken of my first son Gabriel back in 2003.  This little man stole my heart when he was born thirteen years ago.  To be honest when I found out I was having a boy I was scared.  I have always been such a girly girl and did not know if I could be a good Mama to a boy.  While I was still pregnant the Lord encouraged me with this verse.  

"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us." - Ephesians 3:20

I was doing a Bible study,  and when I came across that verse I felt the Lord was reassuring me that having a son was going to be far more wonderful than I could imagine.  

When Gabriel was born I instantly fell head over heals in love with my little man.  It was so fun to dress him up in little ties and suspenders for church and to experience the sweet affection he has always displayed for his Mama.  I quickly learned how to get excited about trains, tractors, and bulldozers.  

Time has flown and thirteen years later I find myself still very much in love with my precious son.  He is quickly changing from a boy into a young man, and there is still a very sweet connection I enjoy with my son.  He tells me often that he loves me and seeks to step in and help me with things.  He has always had such sweet ways of making his Mama feel loved.  

Years ago Gabriel prayed that the Lord Jesus would save him, but he was not baptized for five years.  It has been an interesting journey watching this play out.  At the time that he prayed to be saved we were attending a Presbyterian church, and we were not quite sure what to do about his baptism.  We loved the church but our views on baptism were a bit different.  

Then we joined a church where children were not baptized until at least the age of twelve.  This was to give time to make sure they knew what they were doing and that there was fruit as an evidence of their profession of faith.  Then just about the time he was turning twelve we ended up leaving that church.  

Over the past year we have been settling into a new church, and we were not comfortable jumping straight into baptism.  

Well, just a little over a week before Resurrection Sunday Gabriel came to me and asked if he could be baptized on Easter Sunday which happened to also be his thirteenth birthday!  He told me he thought it would be a very special day to be baptized.  I asked him why he all of a sudden was bringing up baptism.  Gabriel told me that he had heard our pastor teaching about how once you have believed and trusted in Christ that you need to be baptized.  He wanted to take that step and do what he should do.  We talked about how being baptized is identifying publicly with Christ.  I think it is inborn in human beings to want to identify with something and thus we have the tattoo craze in our culture.  People are looking for something to identify themselves with, but in Jesus our identity is wrapped up in Him.  We do not need a tattoo to give us a sense of significance.  When we follow Christ in baptism we are proclaiming the greatness of what He has done in our hearts and our desire to follow Him and be identified as a Christ follower.  That is all the identity we will ever need!  
My husband was able to set up a meeting with our pastor, and a last minute baptism was scheduled!  We are grateful for Gabriel's desire to publicly make known his profession of faith and walk in obedience to Christ in baptism.  Praise the Lord!  

I feel blessed to be the Mama of this young man, and I look forward to seeing what the Lord does in his heart and life as he enters this new season of young manhood.  On his birthday I wrote him a note and shared this verse with him.  

"Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." - I Timothy 4:12  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Heroes of the Faith and Cultivating Vision in Our Children

 In my last post I mentioned several saints who have recently graduated to their eternal home in heaven.  Their pilgrimages through this earthly life have ended, and they have left inspiring legacies behind them.  I also asked the question, “Who will be the next heroes of the faith?”  Who will step into the shoes of those faithful saints who are finishing the good fight?  
  I would like to follow up that question with naming a few men and women who I feel are currently engaged in the battle.  These people  have run the race faithfully for a long period of time and have demonstrated long term faithfulness.  Having grown up in a christian home and having been involved in christian circles my entire life I have unfortunately seen many examples of christian leaders who started the race well yet did not finish well.  I am encouraged by those men and women who have stood faithful over the stretch of time.  
  Once of these men would have to be John MacArthur.  I remember growing up in a home where Christian radio was played daily and the ministry and teaching of John MacArthur filled our home on a regular basis.  My pastor father was influenced by the preaching of John MacArthur and it was a regular thing to hear the Grace to You broadcast playing in our home.  I appreciate the fact that John MacArthur relies on the sufficiency of Scripture as enough in his teaching.  He does not fall into the notion of thinking he needs to entertain people in his books or teaching.  He just simply explains the Word of God progressing verse by verse in an expository style and with no apology for remaining true to the Word of God.  He does not water down or sugar coat the Word of God.  He just simply explains it verse by verse and trusts the Spirit of God to speak to people through it.  In a day when many pastors are using gimmicks to draw in crowds I really appreciate this approach to trusting the sufficiency of God’s Word as being totally and completely sufficient.  I also appreciate that John MacArthur has lived a life above reproach and has led by example and not by words alone.  

  Another Bible teacher I highly respect is Nancy DeMoss Wolgemouth.  Years ago I found myself a young wife and Mama in need of encouragement and longing for wisdom from an older godly lady.  I began praying, “Lord, please send an older woman to me to encourage me in how to do this job of wife/mother that you have called me to.”  As I waited no such lady appeared on my doorstep, but I found myself tuning into the ministry of Revive Our Hearts (  more and more frequently.  As I heard Nancy teaching the Lord was breaking me in some areas and convicting me of areas in my life where I needed to surrender more to Him.  Around that time I was able to attend a conference at Houston’s First Baptist where Nancy was teaching.  I remember sitting there and bawling as the Lord was working in my heart, convicting me, and drawing me closer to Himself.  That was about eight years ago now, and I am still listening to and being encouraged by the Bible teaching of Nancy DeMoss Wolgemouth.  At some point along the way I realized that the Lord sometimes answers our prayers in different ways than we had in mind.  He did not actually send me a Titus 2 mentor in the flesh but provided that mentorship to me through the radio teaching of Nancy on Revive Our Hearts.  If you have not tapped into the blessings of this teaching ministry I would encourage you to look it up online or download the app for Revive Our Hearts on your phone.  I respect Nancy so much, because she has lived a life of faithful devotion to Christ and to ministry.   She is focused on the Word of God as the core of her life, teaching, writing, and ministry.  Her teaching is not based on emotion but rather rooted firmly in the Word of God.  That is a refreshing message in today's culture.  

  Another ginormous hero of the faith in my eyes is Joni Ereckson Tada.  She has been an inspiration to me since my childhood.  I remember listening to her early musical recordings on the old fashioned vinyl records…o.k. I am dating myself now!  If you are not familiar with the life story of Joni I would encourage you to read her autobiography. The  basic overview is that she broke her neck in a diving accident when she was eighteen years old and has lived life as a quadriplegic ever since.  She has lived for decades now serving the Lord, singing beautifully, creating beautiful artwork with a  paintbrush between her teeth, writing books, and speaking to crowds about the faithfulness of God.  The thing about Joni is that she has a contagious spark and joy about her; she beautifully adorns the gospel of her Lord Jesus Christ even in the midst of great suffering.   In addition to these things she has a ministry called Joni and Friends that takes wheel chairs and Bibles to needy people around the world meeting practical needs while sharing the great love of Jesus.  A couple of years ago my children and I were blessed to be able to tour her ministry headquarters and meet her in her office.  At that time she sang “Amazing Grace” with us, read the Scripture with us, showed us her art studio, and blessed us immensely.   I was on cloud nine and feel it was one of the highlights of my life.  I was so excited that my children were able to meet such a great hero of the faith.  

  There are others of course……..these are three people who have impacted me greatly, but I am also thankful for so many others who are using their energies and lives to point people to the Gospel and to the Lord and His ways.  
  It is vitally important to me that my children grow up knowing that they were put here on this earth at this time "For such a time as this." - Esther 4:14  I pray for a kingdom minded vision for our family.  I pray that we will not be worldly minded but that we will understand the seriousness of the times we live in and live not for ourselves but to spread the Lord's kingdom and His righteousness.  I talk to my children and pray with them often about these things.  
  One way that we have chosen to prayerfully try to cultivate this world view of serving the Lord, serving others in need, displaying His glory, and living intentionally for the glory of God is by using resources that open our eyes to the lives of men and women who have lived and served well.   Below I am listing some resources we have found helpful in building vision in our home for how we can serve Christ and live with a missional perspective wherever He has us.  

We have a large collection of Torchlighter videos.  They are animated movies telling the life stories of great men and women of God.  Here is a clip from the story of Jim Elliot.

This is just a sample of some of the kinds of resources we use in our home to teach our children about serving the Lord, living for His glory, and spreading His Gospel.  We want these kinds of men and women to be their heroes.   Our culture is chronically consumed with media and pop culture idols but we want different kinds of heroes for our children.  We want them to see that a true hero is someone who lives out his calling in obedience to the Word of God and to the glory of God.  There are many other great resources but these are a few we enjoy.  

As I reflect upon the lives of great saints from previous generations, who have finished their course well, I feel a burden that it is time for younger generations need to step up and live purposely in our generation.  It is my hearts desire to raise my children with such a mindset.  We were not put here to live the status quo.  As christians we are here for a purpose, and that purpose is to glorify the Lord Jesus and to share His Gospel with a hurting world.  Let's shine brightly!  

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil."  - Eph 5:15-16

"Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity."  - I Timothy 4:12

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Who Will the Next Heroes of the Faith Be?

  I have been thinking about something the last couple of days.  I'm asking myself who will fill the shoes of men and women who have run their race well and are graduating on to heaven.  It seems to me like the Lord has been calling several of His great saints to their eternal home over the past year.  I think of the death of Elisabeth Elliot who went home to glory last year.  This lady has impacted me since my girlhood.  I grew up hearing about her work with the Auca Indians who murdered her first husband, Jim Elliot.

  I had the privilege of seeing her speak at Houston's First Baptist when I was a young lady.  I remember hearing her on our local christian radio station during my formative years.  She would always remind her radio listeners that, 

"You are loved with an everlasting love, that’s what the Bible says, and underneath are the everlasting arms." Elisabeth Elliot

  Elisabeth Elliot is one of the godly LADIES who impacted me to desire to be a Biblical woman.  Her frank proclamation of the truth without compromise was unique.  I look around me and sadly do not see too many Elisabeth Elliots in today's christian culture.  

  At the close of last year news came out that Vonette Bright, who co-founded Campus Crusade for Christ with her husband, Bill, in 1951,  died from complications of acute leukemia.  She was 89.  While I was not personally as impacted by the life of Vonette I am aware that she was a woman with a vision for the kingdom of God.  Her life impacted many for Christ and she remained faithful to the end.  What a lovely example of a woman fully devoted to her Lord and Savior and living for His kingdom purposes.  
  As I think of saints who have passed to glory I also think about the many who have proclaimed Christ and taught His Word but who have not finished the race well.  Growing up in a pastor's home and being familiar with the evangelical and homeschool landscapes I have been devastated time and again by men whom I respected who fell hard off the pedestals I had put them on.  There has been a huge lesson for me in this.  The lesson is that I can learn from others, but "On Christ the solid rock I stand.  All other ground is sinking sand."  May I never hold up any author or teacher with such awe and respect that I put my hope in their teaching rather than in knowing Christ and seeking His face.  
  Just this past week news broke out about two more men of God passing away.  Jerry Bridges and Gary Smalley went home to their Lord.  Gary Smalley's death hit me in a personal way, because when Matt and I were preparing for marriage we watched a video series where Smalley taught about marriage.  It was an exciting time of listening to him and anticipating the marriage the Lord was preparing us for.  

  A few years back Matt and I went to an event in Houston with Gary Smalley.  During the break we were surprised to walk right past him in the back of the room.  We stopped and shared with him how we had watched his videos while preparing for marriage.  He was very personable and kind towards us.  Now that he has gone to be with the Lord I treasure that we were able to have that opportunity to talk with him.  

  So back to the question that has been going around in my head lately.  Who will fill the place of the men and women who have run their race, served Christ and are graduating to heaven.  I can think of several more that might not be on this earth too much longer.  

  Our culture has degraded itself morally and is becoming darker all the time.  We need men to rise up and lead their families and spread Christ and His gospel in their places of work.  We need women to be godly ladies and not women who buy into the lies of the culture.  Our children and future generations deserve for those of us who are older to rise up and be strong leaders for Christ.  I look around and wonder who God will use in the macro scale. Who will be on the platforms proclaiming His truths in the years to come?  Will those proclaimers be faithful unto death......even if it eventually means persecution?  I also am acutely aware that we don't have to be on a platform to greatly impact those in our sphere of influence.  For us Mamas our greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be in something we do but may be in the people we raise.  

  So for myself I ask myself am I pointing my children to Christ and His gospel day by day?  Am I prioritizing the Word of God and His ways in our home?  Am I teaching by example that things of eternal value are what is most important and that all we do should be to the glory of God?  Am I giving my children vision for knowing Christ, for seeking Christ, for loving Christ, and for sharing His light and His gospel with a dark world?  

  This culture desperately needs Dads to rise up and take spiritual leadership in their homes and train their sons to be godly men.  It breaks my heart to see how many young men are confused as to what it means to be a man.  Fathers need to be discipling their sons to have spiritual vision and lovingly lead their future families.  
  When I think of the kind of ladies we need to step up and impact the next generation I think of the words graceful, godly, feminine, intentional, focused, wise, winsome, discreet, nurturing, and surrendered to Christ.  Truly "The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world." - William Ross Wallace

  I truly hope to see more men and women rising up as Queen Esther "For such a time as this."  I pray to be that kind of lady.  I know that right now my biggest arena of influence is tucked away on our little farm with my seven children.  I pray that I am faithful in this mission field the Lord has placed me in.  I pray that wherever the Lord has me in each season of my life that I will be a lady who makes a difference for the kingdom of God.  Life is short, and I really desire to not fritter it away caught up in the enticements of this world.  There is a lost world out there, and I have seven young lives growing up in my home who are looking to me for spiritual direction.  Their eternal souls, their commitment to Christ, and their character training is far more important to me than chasing after worldly pleasures.  I look at my life and know that if I don't live to be extremely old that I have probably hit midlife.  My life so far has passed quickly, and I know the second half will pass even more quickly.  Time is definitely not slowing down.  I am inspired by those who have gone before me to prayerfully do my best to make my life count to the praise and glory of my Savior.   May the Lord raise up many strong and godly men and women to proclaim His kingdom and His righteousness.  

“Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life's busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, 'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in 'that day' my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last.
Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God's holy will to cleave;
Only one life, 'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last.
Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, 'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last.
When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, 'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last.
Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e'er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, 'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last.
Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, "twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say,"Thy will be done";
And when at last I'll hear the call,
I know I'll say "twas worth it all";
Only one life,'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last. "
--- extra stanza ---
Only one life, 'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I'll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”
C.T Studd